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Gabrielle (French Release)
Paris, the beginning of the century…
After a lush but uneventful party Jean (Pascal Greggory) discovers a small letter placed on the top of his desk. In it his beautiful and utterly sophisticated wife Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert) has confessed that her heart now belongs to a different man. Overtaken by uncontrollable emotions Jean collapses - his heart racing, his hands visibly shaking. Later on he saunters to Gabrielle's room only to find out what the letter has already revealed. She is gone!
But a few hours later Gabrielle is back. She walks in the room where Jean has been trying to recollect his thoughts and slowly looks at him. Her big eyes are begging for forgiveness. The lover she has left behind is not the man Gabrielle wants to spend the rest of her days with. Jean is surprised, hurt, and quickly taken over by anger.
Directed by Patrice Chereau (Queen Margot) Gabrielle is a film that seems to have created an enormous amount of mixed feelings between those who follow French cinema and the work of Isabelle Huppert in particular. The unconventional manner in which the story is being told (the actors' lines resemble old-fashioned French poetry) and the fact that the film resembles a theater play with its short introductions before each of the main acts indeed suggest that Patrice Chereau was looking for something special. The complex characters he created in Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train (1998) and the sense of loss we witnessed in Son Frere (2003) are most certainly detectable in Gabrielle. Yet, the film is far more advanced than everything else Patrice Chereau has been previously involved with.
Based on Joseph Conrad's novel The Return (credit goes to Anne-Louise Trividic as well) Gabrielle offers brilliant performances by the two leads: Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory. Stricken by Gabrielle's infidelity Jean transforms into a man determined to hurt the woman he once loved, only doing so with the tact a true gentleman is expected to possess. Pascal Greggory is irresistible as Jean and his verbal abuse aimed at Gabrielle, a never-ending tirade of bitter words, utterly impressive.
Isabelle Huppert, playing the faulty wife Gabrielle, is once again at the top of her game. Her acting, so powerful I wish Bergman would have filmed her at least once, is nothing short of spectacular. Her facial expressions particularly during the second act of the film are as moving as the ones she conveyed while playing Erika Kohut (The Piano Teacher).
I am also equally impressed by the enormous emphasis on detail Patrice Chereau has demanded for Gabrielle. The fabulous cinematography by Eric Gautier who also helmed Olivier Assayas' Clean (2004) and Arnaud Desplechin's Rois et Reine a.k.a Kings and Queen (2004), and the superb costumes are no doubt fantastic. Last but not least the decision to film portions of Gabrielle entirely in black and white and then counter them with colored "reality"-fragments works to perfection.
In 2005 the film won Cesar Awards for Best Costume Design (Caroline de Vivaise) and Best Production Design (Olivier Radot). During the same year the film was also nominated for Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
French production house ARTE present Gabielle in a magnificent double set (digi-pack style) which looks quite similar to the MK2- released The Double Life of Veronique. The digi-pack is neatly tucked in a larger slipper-case containing a 15-page booklet and a large ARTE catalog. On the inside the double set uses a clear case cover under which there is a beautiful photo of Isabelle Huppert.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Gabrielle looks fantastic. The film offers beautiful black and white fragments as well as color episodes and the treatment by ARTE is practically flawless. The image quality is so strong this disc is likely to rank up there amongst the best I have seen released in recent years – strong and deep colors, perfect contrast (the black and white fragments are very impressive) and a spotless print transform Gabrielle into the complete package. PAL-encoded, Region 2.
How Does the DVD Sound?
To compliment the spectacular video presentation ARTE have supplied equally impressive audio treatment: a beautiful French 5.1 and DTS tracks with optional French and English (white/normal font) subtitles. The audio presentation is indeed top notch and the music by Fabio Vacchi comes off the speakers in its full glory. Quite frankly there is nothing for me to comment in this section: just pure perfection!
ARTE have provided a splendid package for Gabrielle with an abundance of notable extras. Disc one offers a very good commentary with Patrice Chereau and co-writer Anne-Louise Trividic in which they discuss their involvement with the film in great detail. Unfortunately English-speakers will not be able to benefit from it. The rest of Disc 1 is reserved for the excellent audio/video presentation.
Disc 2 offers plenty of extras as well but once again they are not English-friendly. There are large interviews with Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory, and Patrice Chereau, as well as an entire section of deleted scenes with an optional French commentary, a nicely-put together Music Featurette highlighting the spectacular music score, the original theatrical trailer, a massive photo gallery, Filmographies, as well as the entire script for Gabrielle which could be accessed as a DVD-ROM feature on your PC.
What a superb presentation for an equally impressive film!! ARTE's treatment of Gabrielle is a pure delight (the double set is so beautiful!!). Despite the pretentious reviews claiming that Patrice Chereau did not deliver what everyone was expecting this film is clearly one of his best. I loved every minute of it!!! As expected Isabelle Huppert is at her best proving she is clearly alone at the top – what a talent!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.